Student, 22, backed by Oprah and MC Hammer wins council election

  • @guyadams

A bankrupt city recently dubbed the "most miserable" place in America is back in the news for all the right reasons, after a 22-year-old student succeeded in a celebrity-backed campaign to win election to the local council.

Michael Tubbs, a Democrat, who launched his campaign while still a student at Stanford, becomes one of the youngest elected officials in the nation after trouncing his Republican rival to win the race for District Six of Stockton, in northern California.

His campaign was financed by Oprah Winfrey, who has officially endorsed just two other politicians in her career: Barack Obama and Cory Booker, the high-profile Mayor of Newark in New Jersey. He also enjoyed the support of rapper MC Hammer.

"I think we really showed what is possible," Mr Tubbs told The Daily, the newspaper of his alma mater. "I think we really inspired a lot of people in Stockton, but also everywhere, to make communities better places."

Winfrey agreed to endorse Mr Tubbs after hearing his inspirational life story. After his father was incarcerated, he was raised in Stockton – which boasts 15 per cent unemployment and the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation – by a single mother. In 2008 he won a scholarship to Stanford. In 2010 he worked as an intern at the White House and later founded an action group, Save Our Stockton, to improve his troubled home town.

The City faces financial ruin due to huge public-sector pay and pension liabilities, largely accrued during the property booms of the late 1990s and early 2000s. After the 2008 housing crash, its income from property taxes, and ability to pay bills, plummeted. It declared bankruptcy in July.

Mr Tubbs, who won his election by a margin of 60-40, says he won't be able to save the city overnight. But he hopes his election signals a fresh start. "We can change Stockton," he told reporters. "I never said I was going to do it by myself. But I can be the catalyst."